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Coombe Cottage Garden Tour

Home > Melbourne > Afternoon Tea | Gardens | Outdoor | Restaurants | Tours
by Nadine Cresswell-Myatt (subscribe)
Freelance writer exploring Melbourne and beyond. If you enjoy the following article click on the Like button, Facebook it to your friends or subscribe to my articles. I'll update you with lots of fun and often free adventures in your home town.
Published June 22nd 2015
& Devonshire tea at Dame Nellie Melba's
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Most people have driven past Dame Nellie Melba' place. It is behind those humungous hedges, at the Y intersection where Maroondah Highway meets Melba Highway (the name an obvious reference to the great dame who in fact named herself after the hometown she loved -- Melbourne.)

Now her estate is is open as a tourist attraction. Unfortunately you can't just go roaming around but you can embark on an organised garden tour.

Coombe Cottage
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For $25 you can enjoy a most satisfying and informative tour, as well as a lovely Devonshire tea in the flash new restaurant with it floor to ceiling windows.

You can't enter Coombe Cottage but you do walk around it and there is a chance to glimpse Dame Nellie's bedroom (with its original furniture) through the open drapes.

coombe cottage
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The knowledgeable tour guide showed us through the seven acres of formal gardens. The tour was a good balance of gardening knowledge as well as the history of the house and the owner who was quite a character.

Once when Dame Nellie was staying at the Shamrock in Bendigo she asked the town to turn off the town clock because the chiming kept waking her up. She was the original diva.

Some of the trees in her garden are well over a century old with one oak rumoured to be over 180. Viewing these enormous gnarled beauties gives a sense of timeliness and continuity.



There are Italianate gardens and English-style herbaceous borders such as peonies, delphiniums, hollyhocks, dianthus.

The gardens were prepared in 1909, under the direction of W.R.Guilfoyle the curator of the Melbourne Botanical Gardens.

Edna Walling was also asked to do some designing but the two strong women had a bit of a falling out. I can just imagine the sparks flying.

The garden still somehow bears her stamp with stonework and a series of compartmentalised spaces, like different "rooms" in a house. Dame Nellie eventually ended up employing three graduate female gardeners from Burnley for as women they were unable to get work.

There is a charming swimming pool with Romanesque pillars. Some say Nellie's was the first house in Victoria to have its own pool.

One can imagine Dame Nellie in her neck to knee swimmers and frilly cap doing her laps, then stopping for a breath at the far end to look out over the magnificent view of the Yarra Valley with its patchwork quilt of mauve and green.

Coombe Cottage
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There is a museum on site and the restaurant has had excellent reviews. Some of the dishes pay homage to the diva such as Peach Melba, Melba Toast, and Melba Sauce.

Coombe Cottage
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A nice touch is the chance to try local award-winning wines at the cellar door and purchase a bottle either to take home or have with your meal.

Coombe Cottage
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Driving home up Maroondah Highway I thought of Dame Nellie who died in 1931. Apparently mourners lined this highway as her hearse passed by. When I got home I looked up TROVE and found the following account in a newspaper article about her funeral:

"Never in the history of Melbourne, not even in the emotional stress of the war years, have the streets witnessed such scenes. For more than three hours the funeral procession flowed slowly between two banks of mourning men, women, and children, few of whom could restrain entirely the spontaneous expression of their sense of loss. Probably hundreds of thousands of people were at the roadside between Scots Church and the cemetery at Lilydale, where Melba was laid to rest, simply and sadly, in a grave of flowers."

I guess she would be pleased that her garden is still pushing up flowers and that people are still adoring her.

Coombe Cottage
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Guided garden tours are held at 10am and 2.00pm, Monday Saturday. Bookings are essential.

No Tours held on Sundays and Public Holidays. Group Bookings (12 or more) available on Wednesdays and Thursdays only.

The $25 tour fee includes morning or afternoon tea consisting of scones with jam and cream and tea or coffee.

Reminder: the gardens are only accessible via the guided garden tours.

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Why? Lovely visiting Dame Melba's gardens for Devonshire tea
When: Guided garden tours are held at 10am and 2.00pm, Monday Saturday. Bookings are essential. No Tours held on Sundays and Public Holidays. Group Bookings (12 or more) available on Wednesdays and Thursdays only.
Phone: 61 (03) 9739 0173 enquiries@coombeyarravalley.com.au reservations@coombeyarravalley.com.au
Where: 673-675 Maroondah Highway Coldstream
Cost: The $25 tour fee includes morning or afternoon tea consisting of scones with jam and cream and tea or coffee.
Your Comment
So divas have been around for 100 years or so? Good story about the town clock.
by Jenny Rossiter (score: 3|4034) 1151 days ago
How exquisite! Your review is lovely and makes me really want to see those beautiful gardens...hmm and have some wine, or scones and tea. It would be pretty special to do a tour inside the house, it appears so elegantly.
by Katy Holliday (score: 3|1129) 1153 days ago
What a lovely spot! It makes me dream of living in such a cottage, perfect for writer's hideaway :)
by Kristin Ravelle (score: 2|302) 1153 days ago
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